An autobiography from Salvador Dalí’s muse reveals a surprising side of Gala

The manuscript has been discovered in Dalí and Gala’s castle in Púbol. It reveals the writer dimension of the woman with whom the painter Salvador Dalí was deeply in love.

CNA / Mar Rocabert

April 9, 2011 12:10 AM

Barcelona (ACN). - ‘La vida secreta’ (‘The secret life’) is the title of Gala Dalí’s autobiography. Gala was not only Salvador Dalí’s partner but also his muse, as the painter revealed on many occasions. “There is no Dalí without Gala”, he used to repeat. They both shared a very intense and unique relationship. Gala’s texts were found handwritten in a notebook inside a trunk located in Púbol castle. They were written when Gala was about fifty years old, and edited on several occasions by the author. The Centre for Dalinian Studies (CED) and the ‘Círculo de Lectores’ Editorial House have compiled the texts into a book, which has the same title as Salvador Dalí’s autobiography. It is an attempt “to create a certain degree of ambiguity” between Gala and Salvador Dalí, according to CED’s director Montse Aguer. According to the expert in Dalí’s world, the notebook changes the stories about Gala, while it unveils an unknown dimension of her and her “writer’s will”. The book also reveals that Dalí’s muse might have written a novel, which if it exists has not yet been found. The Gala – Salvador Dalí Foundation will translate ‘La vida secreta’ into English and Italian. Several editorial houses have bought the rights and are planning to publish it in those two languages along with the original in French.

Salvador Dalí’s muse was overshadowed by his genius, however she was the inspiration for the surrealist painter. Those were the stereotypes about Gala, with which she was quite comfortable. Gala was born in Kazá, in Russia, in 1894. In 1929 she met Dalí who was immediately attracted to Gala’s personality. Since that moment she became his muse until she died in the house they had in Portlligat, in the Catalan coastal village of Cadaqués in 1982, in the northern part of the Costa Brava. However, it seems now that Gala’s autobiography has been published in order “to break stereotypes”, according to Montse Aguer. This expert pointed out Gala’s narrative talent and her vision of the world. The impact that some people made on Gala’s life and mindset is revealed, in particular the French poet Paul Éluard’s – who was Gala’s first husband –, Salvador Dalí (Gala’s second husband) or the Dada and surrealist artist Max Ernst.

Gala’s memoirs do not have a date, but they portray the reflections of a mature woman. She wrote them in French, by hand and used different types of ink in a simple  notebook. However, according to Aguer, the auto-corrections show an unconfessed will for publication. The notebook was left in a trunk located in Gala and Dalí’s residence in Púbol, a castle that Dalí bought in 1969 for his wife and muse. In fact, Gala died in their residence of Portlligat but she is buried in the garden’s of Púbol Castle.

The memoirs have been translated into Catalan and Spanish, for the moment. There are 106 pages, which can be divided into 3 parts. Her life in Moscow takes great importance, before she met the people that would completely change her life and her way of seeing things, including several members of the surrealist movement.

In the opening pages she describes her early life, including when she was seven years old and her sister Lidia was born. She also deals with different moments in her childhood and her adolescence, such how she visited a popular bird fair at Moscow’s Red Square or the relationship she had with her brother. Gala, was a very subtle writer, and leaves the reader with the idea that an incestuous relationship was going on between her and her brother, although it could perfectly have been imaginary. 

According to the Director of the Centre for Dalinian Studies, Gala Dalí is “a great storyteller”, “very cultivated”, and with a “well-defined vision of the world”, influenced by the tragic sense of life from Russian classic authors such as Dostoyevsky, of whom she confessed to be a great admirer. She also was immersed into a quest of faith and she had a great fear of death as well as a tendency to believe in superstitions and magic.

Her autobiography could be incomplete although no additional fragments have been found yet. In the last part of the book, Gala, whose real name was Elena Dimitrievna Diakonova, already knows Dalí, but she mentions him only on a few occasions. However she talks about participating in the painter’s memoirs and the lovers she had. Despite this, she does not mention her first husband Paul Éluard at all, with whom she kept a very close relationship that included being lovers after she married Salvador Dalí. In addition, her daughter and her life in France are also absent from the book, as well as her inclusion in the surrealist artistic movement.

According to Montse Aguer, the “cold and distant Gala could have been a very shy woman full of fears”. The autobiography also includes a poem as well as a post card she wrote to Dalí from Sicily, in which she talks about her novel. This fact may indicate that more texts from Gala could be found in the future.